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Jason and the Argonauts

The Archetypal Adventure

Part IV: A Deadly Trial

Jason schemes to seize the Golden Fleece from King Aeetes

While the earthbound Argonauts debated whether they should seize the Golden Fleece from King Aeetes with persuasive words or by other warlike methods, from lofty Mount Olympus, Hera and Athena, also devised a plan to help the courageous heroes. And, as Jason concluded that, at times, words can accomplish what prowess can hardly bungle through, the goddesses arranged for Eros to plunge one of his arrows into the heart of Aeetes' daughter, Medea, so that she may be charmed with love for Jason and aid him in his quest.

So it was that Jason and several shipmates set off for the palace of Aeetes to test the power of words. They traveled through water and reeds to higher grounds and the Plains of Circe's where it is the tradition of the citizens of Colchis to hang the corpses of their deceased men from the willow trees, and leaving the plains they soon entered the tall gates of Aeetes' palace. In the courtyard, among ranks of columns, stood four fountains crafted by the God, Hephaestus, each gushing either water, wine, milk, or fragrant oil. Surrounding the courtyard was a rich gallery with orderly doors and chambers, festooned in flowering vines. And, above them, the two tallest towers housed the family of Aeetes. At the arrival of the Argonauts, the courtyard straightaway filled with throngs of people, last of all came Aeetes and his daughter Medea.

Meantime, among the parapets, flew Eros unseen as a gadfly among heifers. Eros alighted upon a lintel in the courtyard and quickly strung his bow and notched a new arrow, Messenger of Pain. Drawing the bow wide with both hands he let the arrow fly into the heart of Medea who stood before Jason. The bolt burnt deeply into the maiden's heart like a flame and her soul melted with the sweet pain of love the destroyer; and the hue of her soft cheeks came and went, now pale, now red, now pale, in her soul's distraction.

Aeetes, upon seeing the shipwrecked brothers, sons of his daughter and Phrixus, bade the brothers and Jason to join him in a banquet. After his guests' bellies were full and their veins coursing with nourishment, Aeetes questioned his lost grandsons what calamity had befallen them and who were their new companions. The eldest born of the shipwrecked brothers gently replied, concerned for the success of Jason's quest. He spoke of the storm that tore their ship asunder and how they, clinging to the beams of the ship, were blown ashore an isle that night, preserved by some god, and rescued by the Argonauts the following day. Also, the eldest brother spoke of Jason's quest to restore his throne and pleaded with Aeetes to return the Fleece to Jason, his savior and kin several times removed.

Aeetes was enraged. He suspected the Argonauts were trying to usurp his scepter and throne and threatened to cut out their tongues and hew off their hands. But Jason spoke soothing words, assuring Aeetes that he had no such desires and that he was willing to pay recompense for the Fleece in way of war upon Aeetes enemies and, likewise, all of Iolcus would know of his glorious fame and generosity. Thus Jason flattered Aeetes. However, Aeetes brooded whether to slay them where they stood spilling his recent gifts of wine and meat, or to make trial of their might. As he pondered, the later seemed the better and more amusing way. So Aeetes addressed Jason that he could bear no grudge against a brave man and would gladly give him the Fleece but first Jason would have to win a deadly trial to prove his courage. Jason, feeling caught in an evil trap between King Aeetes and King Pelias and doomed to die, nonetheless, accepted the challenge.

Part V: Toil and Trouble.
Will Jason survive his deadly trial and win the Golden Fleece?

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© Scott Stoll 1999.